V-90 Between the 9th and 15th centuries, the Hindu Khmer Empire reigned across Southeast Asia, stretching from modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It was in Angkor, located an Lake Tonle Sap in present-day Cambodia, that King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to 1150, built Angkor Wat, still the world's largest religious monument, stretching more than 240 miles. Hinduism began around 1500 B.C. when the IndoAryans, peoples of ancient Indian and Iranian descent, combined their sacred teachings with the beliefs of the peoples of the Indus Valley, whose territory they "ad recently occupied. Hindus worshipped many gods, the principal ones being Brahma, the creator;
Vishnu, who preserves life; and Shiva, the destroyer of all evil.
Angkor Wat became the empire's principal religious complex. Built to represent the Hindu cosmos and serve as a shrine to Vishnu, Angkor Wat's walls are covered in large scale, carved depictions of Hindu epics. But despite its glorious dedication to the Hindu gods, rivals sacked the Khmer capital in 1177, causing the next Khmer king, Jayavarman VIII, to look to Buddhism for divine protection.
The complex may have been saved by this shift in religion. Buddhist monks took over the care of Angkor Wat after the Khmer abandoned it in the 15th century for their new capital in Phnom Penh.